The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Cardinals

THE BIG PICTURE

The Eagles come off the bye having won three games in a row for the first time all season. At 6-5, they’ll look to keep pace with the Cowboys atop the division.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, have won four in a row and are in good position to compete for a wild card spot. They crushed the Colts 40-11 in Week 12.

Here is how the Eagles’ offense matches up with the Cardinals’ defense:

 
Yards Per Play
Points Per Game
DVOA (FB Outsiders)
Eagles Offense6.3 (1st)25.1 (8th)18.9% (4th)
Cardinals Defense4.8 (4th)20.3 (8th)-18.1% (2nd)

And the Eagles’ defense against the Cardinals’ offense:

 
Yards Per Play
Points Per Game
DVOA (FB Outsiders)
Cardinals Offense5.3 (15th)23.1 (18th)-9.0% (25th)
Eagles Defense5.6 (21st)23.6 (15th)8.6% (27th)

Note: Click here for an explanation of DVOA.

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EAGLES RUSHING OFFENSE

 
YPC
FB Outsiders (DVOA)
Eagles Rushing Offense4.9 (2nd)21.5% (1st)
Cardinals Rushing Defense3.5 (3rd)-22.7% (4th)

Bruce Arians was clear this week about what the Cardinals’ priority on defense would be.

Asked about Foles, he told Arizona reporters: “You don’t worry about him at the moment. You’d better take (running back) LeSean McCoy out the game first and then worry about Nick. It always starts with stopping the run for us and then getting to the quarterback. If we’re fortunate enough to stop the run in this game, I like our chances.”

McCoy is the league’s leading rusher, but as we discussed extensively in Friday’s Wake-Up Call, he got hit behind the line of scrimmage too many times in the Eagles’ last game.

The offensive line will be tested by a stout Cardinals’ run defense. Up front, they’ll have to contend with 6-foot-8 Calais Campbell and three-time Pro Bowler Darnell Dockett. Each player has seven tackles for loss.

The Cardinals have talented inside linebackers too in Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington. Dansby leads the team with 85 tackles (six for loss).

Arizona has limited opponents to 3.5 YPC, third-best in the league.

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EAGLES PASSING OFFENSE

 
Completion Percentage
YPA
20+
FB Outsiders (DVOA)
Nick Foles63.6% (10th)9.59 (1st)*56 (1st)*25.9% (6th)
Cardinals Passing Defense58.9% (11th)6.4 (5th)29 (7th)-15.3% (3rd)

* Team stat, not individual stat.

We covered a lot of this at the top. Foles has been on fire and looked as comfortable as he has all season two weeks ago in the team’s win over the Redskins. He’ll face a blitz-heavy attack from Arizona.

Outside linebacker John Abraham leads the Cardinals with seven sacks. Peters has been good in pass protection, but Lane Johnson has lacked consistency.

Campbell (5.5) and Dockett (4.5) have combined for 10 sacks. Todd Herremans has struggled in pass pro, although he’s coming off perhaps his best game of the year against Washington.

Dansby is the Cardinals’ most frequent blitzer, per PFF. He has three sacks on the season.

In the secondary, Arizona features shutdown corner Patrick Peterson and fifth-year veteran Jerraud Powers. Rookie Tyrann Mathieu plays a variety of roles and has been terrific with eight passes defended, two interceptions, a forced fumble, four tackles for loss and a sack.

DeSean Jackson needs just five catches to set a new career high in that department. He needs 15 yards to hit the 1,000-yard mark for the first time since 2010 and is averaging 17.0 yards per grab.

***

EAGLES RUSHING DEFENSE

 
YPC
FB Outsiders (DVOA)
Cardinals Rushing Offense3.7 (27th)-14.6% (26th)
Eagles Rushing Defense4.1 (T-13th)-6.1% (16th)

The Cardinals will go with Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington out of the backfield. Among the 37 players who have had at least 100 carries, Mendenhall ranks 33rd in YPC at 3.0. He has not had a single carry of 20+ yards all season.

Ellington has been a different story. The rookie is averaging 6.0 YPC and has five runs of 20+ yards. He also has 28 catches for 247 yards.

The Eagles’ defensive line has been outstanding against the run. Bennie Logan has provided a boost at nose tackle over Isaac Sopoaga. Fletcher Cox is playing at a Pro Bowl level. And Cedric Thornton has been the team’s most consistent defensive player.

DeMeco Ryans is sixth in the NFL with 76 tackles. And the Eagles expect to get Mychal Kendricks back from injury.

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EAGLES PASSING DEFENSE

 
Completion Percentage
YPA
20+
FB Outsiders (DVOA)
Carson Palmer63.3% (12th)7.31 (11th)*30 (25th)*3.4% (20th)
Eagles Passing Defense61.2% (18th)7.2 (18th)42 (25th)19.0% (26th)

* Team stat, not individual stat.

Carson Palmer has thrown 78 interceptions in his last 68 games. He’s been picked off 15 times this year, third-most in the NFL. But he’s played well in the last month, completing 69 percent of his passes during Arizona’s win streak.

Fitzgerald has killed the Eagles throughout the course of his career and leads the team in catches (50), targets (91) and touchdowns (eight). Michael Floyd is playing at a high level and leads the Cardinals with 761 receiving yards. His 12 grabs of 20+ yards are also a team-high.

Palmer will spread the ball around. Five different players have at least 25 catches.

The Eagles still give up chunks of yardage in the passing game, but they’ve kept teams out of the end zone. Bradley Fletcher is expected to return from a pec injury and will start opposite Cary Williams. Brandon Boykin has a team-high four interceptions.

Nate Allen has been dependable and is playing the best football of his career. Patrick Chung will start at the other spot as Wolff has yet to recover from a knee injury.

Up front, the Cardinals are OK. They rank 19th in adjusted sack rate. But that number is probably more a function of Palmer than the offensive line talent. Palmer gets rid of the ball on average in 2.48 seconds, per PFF. That’s fifth-quickest in the NFL.

Barwin and Trent Cole combined for three sacks against Washington. Cox leads the team in hurries (19).

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THE ESSENTIALS

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. EST on FOX. Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston will have the call. The Eagles are 3-point favorites. According to Sports Insights, 61 percent of the money is on the Cardinals to cover.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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